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What’s a more depressing happy-hour hangout on your average Thursday: A sports club at 5 p.m., or a strip club at the same time? At Fast Eddies/Archibalds, the double threat located at 1520 K Street NW, we find out!
UPSTAIRS: Fast Eddies, sports bar. At 5 o’clock, a guy in a suit is alone at the bar, save for a Miller Light, a plate of french fries, and the bartender, who sits on the wrong side of her job to plug quarters into the video poker machine. A couple women sit in the back with coats draped over their shoulders and six-inch heels strapped to their feet. A row of televisions above the bar show no sports in this sports bar—-just some muted talking heads and an infomercial for the no-break, no-bend, money-back-guarantee “SlimClip.” (You put dollars in it). When a regular comes in asking for a vodka martini, dirty, the bartender reclaims her station to tell him to reconsider: She can’t make it dirty, and besides, the shot glass is bigger than the martini glass anyway. He gets a straight shot of vodka and sits down.
DOWNSTAIRS: Archibald’s can make it dirty. Depression? Recession? Marriage? Not at Archibalds, where all the women all naked, garterbelts are overflowing, and everyone—-especially the eccentric man in the vest standing very close to that dancing woman—-is smiling. One middle-aged patron, who has a stripper in his right hand and a wedding ring on his left, only appears depressed when he has to say goodbye.
Archibald’s is a “gentleman’s club,” and its bustling economy depends on the strange gender dynamics at play. Like any bar, there are about equal numbers of men and women here. The only difference is that when a woman talks to a man, he’s expected to provide her a regular stream of cash. Also, boobs.
All the women here—-the women in the schoolgirl uniforms passing drinks, the ones shimmying on stage one and two, and myself—-are getting paid. When I enter, the bouncer doesn’t even think to card me. Later, he asks for my ID and admits that he had mistakenly assumed that I worked there. Despite the very overt female presence, some of the men here say that they actually come to avoid women—-their wives and girlfriends, of course, but possible dates, too. I sit down at a table with four collared-shirted businessmen who are taking turns rising, trotting over to the main stage, and depositing a dollar bill in the band wrapped tight around the stripper’s thigh. I apologize for ruining their game. “Don’t worry—-My game just keeps on going,” one of the men tells me. Later, he admits that the real game hasn’t even started yet. The four men are just making a quick stop at Archibald’s before happy hour. Soon, they’ll head to Clarenden, where they’ll actually try to pick up women.
When the main-stage stripper has finished removing her clothes and then putting them back on, she stops at our table and introduces herself as Tabbitha. She tells me I’ve come to the wrong place if I’m looking for an average strip club—-Archibald’s employees are “prettier and nicer” than most D.C. clubs. “I’ve heard that Camelot is supposed to have the most beautiful girls, but I’ve been there, and I just don’t think that’s true anymore,” she says. Plus, Archibald’s women skimp on the attitude. “We just don’t deal with the diva thing here,” she says. “The dancers, the customers, everyone is very, very nice, and that’s really important to me. There’s no weird stuff. There’s no funny business. It’s just a nice place.”
One of the businessmen puts his arm around Tabbitha and slips her a bill. “What, you want change?” she says, rifling through her stack of ones. The man laughs like a boy. His friend leans over and informs the table: “You know, some of the girls even meet their husbands here,” he says—-indicating that not all of Archibald’s clientelle come here to escape average life.